BYU Plays the Game of Semantics
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Over the past six years, HeartStrong
has been predicting that many religious educational institutions are
about to change some of their vague anti-gay policies and make them
more specific. This will be in direct result to public
exposure as well as the newly looming threat of high profile
lawsuits against religious schools with vague anti-gay policies.
Like many religious universities, Brigham Young University is no
place for someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.
However, many students are coerced by their own religious beliefs or
by their parents to attend this school.
Previously, BYU's Honor Code and rules about homosexuality included
the following : "Brigham Young University will respond to student
behavior rather than to feelings or orientation. . . . Advocacy of a
homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors
that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in
nature, are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code."
Basically they were saying that the school would always look at a
student's behavior as opposed to invoking discipline as a result of
suspicion or even someone saying that they were gay (without
The revised statement reads as follows: "Brigham Young
University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to
feelings or orientation and welcomes as full members of the
university community all whose behavior meets university standards.
. . . One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue.
However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university
community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity."
As you can see, there is very little difference between the two
statements. The newer statement seems to make a statement that
one's admission of being gay is not grounds for dismissal or even
exclusion from enrollment. HOWEVER, the key statement here is
"BYU... welcomes...all whose behavior meets university
standards...the law of chastity."
While this new policy may have prevented the two students from
getting expelled a couple years ago for watching "Queer as Folk",
the policy is still anti-gay. There are no pro-gay social
events at this university, only pro-heterosexual. As well, the
only students that are required to live in chastity are single
heterosexual students and those who identify as gay. Again,
heterosexual privilege prevails as usual.
Interestingly but not surprisingly, the rules only speak of
homosexuality and not the issue of transgendered students. Or,
This policy also confirms the school's position about homosexuality.
Most people in this sect of Christianity don't really believe there
is such a thing as homosexual people, but rather believe that
everyone is heterosexual and some are just prone for falling victim
to the "sin" of homosexuality. Just like others are prone to
falling victim to the "sins" of lying, cheating, stealing, murder,
This new policy clears up any confusion about the school's position
in this area and confirms their belief in "original sin."
And, nothing is stated about discontinuing the degrading discussion
and name calling of those who exhibit homosexual "behavior" as
sinners. There is also no statement made about the school's
rabid history of promoting reparative therapy both passive and
The school's policy
defining behavior is as follows:
"Homosexual behavior or advocacy of
homosexual behavior are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code.
Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between
members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that
give expression to homosexual feelings. Advocacy includes seeking to
influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting
homosexual relations as being morally acceptable."
It is extremely important to note
that there is NOT nor will there ever be a non-harassment or
non-discrimination policy on the books and enforced at BYU.
And those policies are what is necessary for a school to be truly
As usual, things like this are predictable. We predicted these
changes back in 2000. (Yet no one ever seems to believe us.)
There will be many additional similar changes in high profile
schools as these schools continue to seek to avoid public scrutiny,
outrage and potential lawsuits.
Similar to this change, we expect many schools, even k-12 schools to
change their vague policies about homosexuality. Many schools
removed the word homosexuality from their student handbooks and
replaced it with the highly subjective term of immorality.
Because of recent lawsuits by some of our students, we expect some
schools to begin changing their policies to be more definitive.